We know everyone has them. But even after 30+ years of running I'm always surprised when one of these runs 'hit' me. Yesterday I got home early and the family was away from the house so I decided to go out for a run. Now this wasn't a 'normal' run for me =<3 miles so I mapped out a course that wound through town and it turned out to be 4.6 mile. No biggie, I'll just go out in a 11 min pace and should be able to complete this with no problem. Low and behold as soon as I stepped out the door and took that first step; the discomfort started. Notice I didn't say 'pain'. That comes a little later......
Normally I'm a slow starter and need to get warmed up - so these first few steps of discomfort didn't alarm me too much other than the fact that I noticed right off that my legs were sore from the other night. "No problem though - I'll just start a little slower than planned. Plus I really want to do this course since it's new." I told my brain. Slowly the kinks worked themselves out of my legs, and my breathing was coming pretty normally. Unfortunately that lasted about a mile. My first split: 10:43. "Good - I'm right where I want to be. This shouldn't be too hard - that first mile was all uphill so this second uphill mile should be easy now I've warmed up." Don't you hate it when your head plays with you? Damm it's getting harder - glancing down at my watch only about 5 mins has passed, my breathing is becoming a little ragged and all of the sudden my left foot his killing me. Where the hell did THAT pain come from? It hurts so bad I can feel it in my right knee.... What!?! My RIGHT knee? OK what the hell is going on? I'd better slow to a stop. Walk a min, run a min, walk, run; mile 2 marker: 13:42. Damm what happened?
I eventually overcame the issue and went on to finish with mid 10 min splits for the final two downhill miles, but it got me thinking about how the mind works regarding these 'bad' runs. I can have good run after good run but somehow over the years I tend to remember the bad ones more. Don't get me wrong I do remember good ones also - but just not as clearly. Is it because of the pain? Some of my best runs that I remember have come with pain so that's a common feature. But I tend to believe that it's more that that. Somewhere in me is my brain's filing system that 'stores' milestones - and a lot of times these difficult 'bad' runs seem to be stored. Why? Is the old adage "No Pain No Gain" really true? Maybe to some extent it is. For me at least I tend to remember these runs better when there is pain involved. But usually these runs are also followed by a decision I need to make in my training. Do I continue to try to get better and take it to the next level? Or do I back off and keep the pain to a level where I enjoy running at and not get any better?
Now just because I choose to work with the pain doesn't mean I'm stupid and go out and get hurt. It just means I decide to plan a little bit better, and work smarter to get to my goals. (Adjustments are made)
Still it think is funny how the brain works on these types of runs.... I still remember painful runs way back from High School and college. One in particular run was when I was a freshman in high school. I joined the x-country team upon begging from the Coach (we were a small school and needed another runner to fill the squad) I ran a soft riverbed course in something like 26 +change (3 miles) I felt like I was going to die, and could have quit right there without any shame. After puking my lunch (hotdogs of all things and purple CoolAid) I decided right there to run a sub 20 min for that season. (I didn't hit that goal until my sophmore season, but I did hit it and went much further.) Still even though I don't remember the winning time of the race, the weather, or even the time of day - I still remember how I felt over that last mile and a half and how I overcame that feeling. Not because of the race or the finish, but because I overcame something inside telling me to quit.